What does it mean to be a patriot and a citizen?
The results of the sociological research "Patriotic Values of the population of Belarus" conducted by the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences from February 28 to March 17 this year were presented yesterday at the National Press Center. Following the results, 86.6 percent of Belarusians consider themselves patriots. But what is behind this number, What conclusions should we draw? In search of an answer to these questions, the editorial board brought around the table the leading sociologists and analysts of Belarus. The discussion was attended by involved Svetlana Vinokurova, First Vice-Rector of the Belarusian State Academy of Arts; Valentina Ginchuk, Director of the National Institute of Education; Andrei Lazutkin, political scientist, press-service worker of the Ministry of Education; Andrei Kuleshov, Dean of the Economics and Law Faculty of Mogilev State University; Dmitri Rogovtsov, leading specialist of BISR branch in Mogilev region; Vadim Elfimov, political scientist, journalist and writer; Sergey Musienko, head of the EcooM Analytical Center, and Viktor Kirienko, Professor of Pavel Sukhoi Gomel State University.
Patriotism: status and trends
А. Lazutkin: At the time of the sociological research (February-March 2022) the January events in Kazakhstan had already taken place, and then a special military operation in Ukraine started. The survey shows that external events have significantly sobered society, and at the same time increased the confidence in television and print media. That is, people realized that the state Media had previously said the right, truthful things about 2020 and the attempted coup in Belarus. Using the example of Kazakhstan and Ukraine, they clearly demonstrated what could happen in the event of a fall of power, anarchy.
And when we speak about certain problematic or disloyal to the state groups in society, today they are rather localized pockets formed on professional, territorial or informal grounds, while the rest of society on the whole supports state policy.
Patriotism today is a phenomenon of state policy. But why should a man be a patriot? Because patriotism is also an unconditional good for the person himself. This is not just a state or public value, this is also an individual value. At the same time, many issues have to be analyzed: to recall where sovereign Belarus began and what heights it has reached since then. And not to allow patriotism to become a pass for the opportunist. This term should be protected, preserving its original meaning.
V. Elfimov: At the same time, it is important for us to know and understand with whom we can and should unite today. When we talk about creating and building a patriotic concept, we need to clearly define these issues. Such concept should not be eclectic, we should not dump everything there.
I should be clearly defined today what patriotism and nationalism are, since they are not the same thing.
And yet, we must understand that patriots are often not all those refined boys and girls who call themselves so. In terms of patriotic education, the Head of State was absolutely right saying back in 2003 that ideology is the cornerstone of everything.
I am convinced that we should withdraw from the Bologna process: behind the vociferously announced freedom of universities and independence from the state lies a brain drain from the country. And when our youth is anxious about it, we should understand that to some extent we ourselves pushed them to take this step.
Patriotic education of young people should begin with primary school. And I hope that in this process we'll be assisted by a sociological research to the results of which we will return more than once.
S.Vinokurova: Conducting such a massive opinion poll using a proven and representative methodology includes only a small aspect of what can be attributed to patriotic values.
I want to agree with Vadim Elfimov. We really need to define first the concept of what we mean by patriotism. After all, the word can be given dozens of definitions, and the level of patriotism is not a static state but a constant process, variable and dynamic, influenced by many external and internal factors.
They say, "patriotism ends where taxation begins". When salaries or pensions are increased, no one asks the question: for what? This is perceived as a sign of the nation's progress, the concern of the state. But patriotism is not about that. When, after the Great Patriotic War, surcharges for military orders were canceled, since money was needed to restore the economy and completely destroyed cities, no one came out to protest, did not shout about deterioration of their situation. That is, patriotism is, first of all, a special form of consciousness and awareness of personal responsibility for the country.
Educational institutions have developed a fairly effective system of patriotic education of children and youth. This is confirmed by almost 40 percent of the research respondents who noted that patriotic education is influenced by educational institutions. We can achieve even greater success in educating the younger generation if we unite our forces: teachers, the public, the media, parents.
S. Musienko: It is very important and valuable that translation of knowledge and sociological research gain weight in the Belarusian society. Only a deep understanding of the issue allows to solve it. What I would note for my part is the complacency that arises from evaluating the numbers. And it should not be relaxing for us. We see from people's assessment that the education system is of great significance. Today it is important to raise the authority and role of ideologists in enterprises. In addition, the succession of generations should exist, we need to make up for this work. The centers of patriotic education, patriotic classes being created all over the country are points of growth. We need to continue to go forward.
There was no split in the Belarusian society, there were certain protest centers. If we go back to the 2020 events, we can conclude that the main problem was in the capital which accumulated special economic groups, a younger and more dynamic population, some of which had connections with foreign organizations. All this had an impact on creating local protest points in society. But, fortunately, we managed to overcome this problem.
V. Kirienko: "I believe that the reason for the increase in the number of respondents who consider themselves patriots is due to the harsh events being the case on the world stage today". They made us decide. That is why, I think, the number of those who previously found it difficult to answer has also decreased.
But I do not agree with the concept that patriotism is "living and working in Belarus". In my understanding, these are more substantive, active things that should come from the citizen himself.
We are conducting a similar sociological research in the Gomel region. And although it is not finished yet, the trend is already evident: the number of those linking patriotism and duties to the country together is increasing.
Even on the eve of the republican referendum, a survey conducted by our sociological service in Gomel showed that the level of trust in state authorities exceeds the level of trust in opposition structures by five times. But I do not agree with the opinion that patriotism is "living and working in Belarus". In my understanding, these are more substantive, active things, concrete actions that should come from the citizen himself.
We do not reject cultural heritage. In our country, 66 streets and boulevards bear the name of Taras Shevchenko. Will any of us agree to rename them and cross this name out? But it is common in other countries: erasing historical memory, attacks on information resources empeding this. The sb.by website is not loaded in many countries of the world, because they are simply afraid of you! Same as they used to be afraid of @zheltyeslivy (Yellow Leaks Telegram Channel). But we need to move forward and develop. Only during anniversaries we remember the Bagration Belarusian liberation operation which in fact is the precursor of our independence. It is positive and correct that information and educational campaign "Roads of Courage and Perseverance" is taking place in the country which will cover 27 settlements awarded with the pennant "For Courage and Perseverance during the Great Patriotic War", which was established in 2004 by ¬presidential decree. I would very much like this pennant to become a part of military-patriotic rituals, a prayer symbol.
The results of sociological research on patriotism and national symbols show that the vast majority of the population has formed a national state identity. Our flag, coat of arms and anthem are in the pantheon of patriotic values. And, what is nice, they are especially significant for young people.
I will note at the same time that some negative responses with respect to state symbols were pronounced among people aged 30-50. I think, this attitude was formed due to the fact that school years of these people fell on 1991-1995, when everything associated with the USSR and BSSR was demonized, and there were certain ideological approaches to assessing historical events in our country in the curricula.
I am very pleased that today the Ministry of Education pays much attention to the issues of education of patriotism: from the new academic year, the national anthem and flag will be constantly present during the celebrations. This practice is actively used by our Western partners, we need to borrow it. This way we will be sure that the younger generation will protect the national interests and sovereignty of the Belarusian people.
Formation of civil nation in Belarus
A. Lazutkin: The problem lies in a false understanding of the feeling of patriotism. The protest environment is heterogeneous, there are, for example, liberal or anarchist groups that deny any state policy and oppose any laws and state symbols. The other part are nationalists who seem to consider themselves part of the state, but put an ethnic, nationalistic meaning into this state. In principle, they can also say they stand for "legality", for civil "patriotism", but these concepts will hide values that are absolutely hostile to us, that is, other state symbols, other monuments, other historical dates, other laws.
They are based on a set of myths about certain exceptional national traits, noble ancestors, gentry — that is, a set of conditional signs for attributing themselves to the elite.
Our citizens in the opinion poll answer that it is necessary to live and work in our country. For most, this is the understanding of patriotism. Order and justice for our people are much more important than some abstract constructions.
And even if we consider the protests that took place in Minsk in 2020, in general they were not nationalistic. At first, they were held under the vague slogans "against violence", and only later were they supplemented with white-red-white flags and nationalist coloring. And in general, the protest was not built on themes traditional for our opponents. This suggests that protest organizers considered them as not promising. Today, state sociology indirectly confirms that.
Sociological research is a very important and good thing. Let's be honest: we lacked them. And it is nice that this process is gaining momentum. We can see that a certain serious reversal has been made in politics, sociology, and mass media. Even the minds of people have changed. This is also why we need to work more actively from the public education standpoint.
V. Elfimov: Today we are looking for some definition of civil society. Civil society and liberals proceed from the fact that it arises to counterbalance the state. They like to repeat the mantra about the rule of law. The question in this regard is: where is the rule of law?
Civil society, in my understanding, should be built in cooperation with the state. Maybe they disagree on something, but they interact constructively with the state, offer their ideas, things, not wanting to ruin or destroy the country. All the rest is not a civil society, it is a subversive activity.
Retaining historical memory
S. Vinokurova: Why has the issue of protecting historical memory become so relevant today? At least because the living witnesses of the hostilities have already passed away.
A person should not be a spiritual proletarian!
He should not feel like a man of the world where there are no political and moral boundaries. The consumer society undermines the spirit of patriotic values — and these snapshot of trends require special analysis and separate work with themselves.
V. Ginchuk: The formation of the historical memory of the younger generation is one of the critical tasks that the national education system is solving today. It is inextricably linked with the education of patriotic values of young citizens, with the development of a sense of pride for their country, for the Belarusian people. A special place in forming historical memory of the younger generation is occupied by the theme of the Great Patriotic War. Modern schoolchildren, unlike our generation, do not have such a powerful factor of educational influence as direct communication with people who bore the war on their shoulders. Therefore, we are looking for such forms of work that can have an emotional impact on teenagers, make them think about the price of Victory and its significance.
We are talking about a civil nation. This is a concept that unites people who are aware of their rights, freedoms and responsibilities. Our opponents, with their liberal point of view, for some reason focus on rights and freedoms, forgetting that the principle of the rule of law and the basis of civil society are primarily mutual obligations of a person, society and the state. A civil nation is a guarantee that in the future we will be able to avoid certain shocks that came as a surprise in 2020.
On behalf of the Head of State, work is underway in 2022 to update textbooks for institutions of general secondary and higher education on the history of the Great Patriotic War. They will include new documents, information and analytical materials provided by the Prosecutor General's Office of Belarus on the genocide of the Belarusian people. I am sure that the new manuals will contribute greatly to the formation of patriotic values among young people.
S. Musienko: Yes, unfortunately, there are few real witnesses of the war, veterans left. And we have to make up for it. The centers of military-patriotic education that the Ministry of Education is currently creating all over the country, military-patriotic classes where wonderful guys have their lessons — this is the very practical work that we see. Recently, the Minister of Education with the students from the military-patriotic center "Skif", in Rechitsa, visited the location of the Slavny detachment formed during the war in the marshes of Mogilev region. These are practical steps, companionship. By the way, more than 400 Skif graduates serve or previously served in the special forces of the republic! It is these people who should be attracted to develop provisions on patriotic education. For they have been doing this work for decades.
But I believe that it is not quite right to separate patriotism, the preservation of historical memory and the formation of a civil nation in principle: all these are complementary elements.
The same cycle of materials that "SB. Belarus Today" has been doing for more than one week — about monuments that are worth visiting in every region of the country — this is an excellent guide for schools and labor collectives, thanks to the newspaper for this. Figures announced on Tuesday speak about our potential. That even in the current extremely complex situation, which our society has never encountered before, we perceive what is happening quite adequately. And this is really great.